Homepage > Blogs
"When I was in Westlife we had songs which would make the whole place stand still and you could hear a pin drop," says Shane Filan, even now sounding almost incredulous at the memory. "There's nothing like that moment, whether you're playing to 2000 or 80,000 people. Those are the moments I wanted to capture for myself with this album."
When Westlife split in 2011, they could look back at a career in which they "fulfilled all of our dreams 1000 times over." Their highs were almost unbelievable in their scale: 44 million sales; fourteen chart-topping singles; four gargantuan homecoming shows in Dublin's Croke Park in which the audience stretched as far as the eye could see.
And then Filan was out on his own. For a man who had grown-up as the youngest of seven siblings and then enjoyed fourteen years of brotherhood in one of pop's biggest ever bands, it was a period of adjustment.
"I didn't know what to expect," he admits. "I was just trying to find my way. I definitely wanted to continue singing, and the main thing was to actually prove to myself that I could do it on my own."
Filan followed the success of his debut solo album You and Me with extensive solo touring throughout the UK, Ireland and Asia. When it came to working on the follow-up, his priority was to find a song with the scintillating spark that inspired Flying Without Wings and You Raise Me Up. His aim, he says, was to record "that great song that everyone all over the world knows."
The way that would be achieved would be with the same work ethic that Filan first encountered when he served in his family's café as a youngster. "You have to work hard if you want to be successful. Actually…" he laughs, "you have to work even harder than you think!"
Filan dedicated himself to a huge writing process in which he co-wrote almost fifty songs, the best of which make up two-thirds of his upcoming second album Right Here, his first under a new deal with East West Records / Warners. The remaining tracks were chosen from approximately 200 submissions that he'd shortlisted from other writers. It was a lengthy process, but one which was necessary to ensure that he would fulfil his mission statement: to deliver a collection of ten brilliant contemporary pop songs.
Recorded primarily in London and Denmark, key collaborators include the Ivor Novello winner Cutfather, Jez Ashurst (Will Young, Gabrielle Aplin), Jon Maguire (Union J's Beautiful Life), and Tre Jean-Marie (Andrea Faustini, Melissa Steel).
The desire to pursue compelling pop is particularly evident in the lead single Me and the Moon which updates the special blend of strong melodies, dramatic dynamics and soaring vocals that typified many of Filan's finest moments with Westlife.
"It's a great example of where I want my music to be at. It's very current, it's quite pop but there's a bit of an edge to it, and it's a big song vocally. What I love about it is that it has a universal meaning. It's about losing someone you love, but it could be that you've lost a relationship, or someone has passed away, or you could be miles away from your loved ones on the other side of the world. I can really relate to it in that sense."
After You and Me, Filan also aimed to deliver something that would live up to his fans' expectations. "I think they wanted more ballads and they wanted better songs," is his honest assessment. And stronger material resonates throughout Right Here, from the epic duet I Could Be – complete with an undercurrent of Irish folk and lyrics which offer contrasting outlooks from within a relationship – to the back-to-basics emotion of the title-track, Right Here, which ascends to new heights with the help of the London Community Gospel Choir.
Lyrically, the aim was to focus on universal emotions that people could interpret in their own way which is exactly how Filan himself relates to the lyrics. Me and the Moon's line "back on the street that I met you", for example, rewinds him to the early days of his relationship with his wife Gillian, while Right Here is about protecting a loved one. "I feel like I'm singing it to both my children and wife, but for two different reasons," he says.
In keeping with Filan's grand ambitions for the sound of the album, he's also thinking big in terms of the scale of its promotion: the UK and Ireland is the obvious market, but wider Europe is vital too, and he's also aiming to hit North America, South America, Asia and Australia. His mastermind, of course, is still Louis Walsh, with whom he has worked for almost twenty years.
"He's someone that I trust 1000%," adds Filan without even a hint of exaggeration. "I know he has my best interest at heart: he's a manager, he's a mentor, he's a friend, he's even a bit of a fatherly figure. He's very protective of me."
It's been a remarkable journey for a singer-songwriter who grew up inspired by an admiration of the Backstreet Boys and Michael Jackson. After achieving unparalleled success with his friends (and Westlife are all in touch, even if their schedules mean that collective meetings are rare), there have been a few lows en route –which he has successfully overcome – and the whole wild warts-and-all ride was documented in his autobiography My Side of Life.
"I'm glad I did it," he affirms. "Parts of it were definitely difficult but the more I talked about it in the book, the better I felt about it. I've done it now and I feel ready to move on with the rest of my life!"
The best stories inevitably take on a life of their own, with exciting new chapters adding to the existing narrative. Who knows where this latest instalment might take Shane Filan next? Right here and right now, he's in the perfect position for another uplifting twist in the tale.